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Kissing Cousins

The photo of my cousin Jerry and his wife Eli provides the source image for a more abstract painting. Do not be concerned this time with keeping the likeness of the subjects. In fact, the further away you get from Jerry and Eli, the better.

  1. Open KISS.tif.

This is a great image for developing with the Art History Brush. It's a good composition, with detail where it's needed—in the faces—and large, nearly flat areas of low saturation. The tonal range is broad, but the color range is restricted to a few warm browns and creams, with just a touch of pale green.

  1. Start by painting the entire image with a large brush to eliminate detail (for now) and establish an interesting texture.

    I used the Texture 6 brush in the Assorted Brushes library, with size increased to about 70 pixels. The Options Bar settings are Normal mode, 100% Opacity, Dab style, 200-pixel area, and 0% Tolerance.

    Figure 4Figure 4 Reduce detail and apply strong texture with a large brush.

    Texture shows only at the edges where different colors meet. Jerry's black shirt and the smooth gradient on the wall are unchanged. You need to increase the color variability of the brush.

  2. Highlight the Color Dynamics section of the Brushes palette. Move the Jitter sliders for Hue, Saturation, and Brightness to about 23%. Set the Purity slider to about 39%. Paint over everything except Jerry's and Eli's heads.

    Now would be a good time to save your changes as a new preset. Use the New Brush command in the Brush Preset Picker flyout menu.

    Figure 5Figure 5 Adjust Color Dynamics and save all changes as a new preset.


    Color variability in the Art History Brush was managed differently in Photoshop 6. There was a field in the Options Bar for Fidelity, meaning fidelity to the source color. With the new Color Dynamics controls in the Brush Presets section of the Brushes palette, there's no longer a need for the Fidelity slider.

    At this stage, you have what could be considered an underpainting. You will develop it, as you would a traditional canvas, by emphasizing some areas while downplaying others. Variations in brushwork and the amount of detail will help.

    Figure 6Figure 6 Examine the underpainting and look for ways to develop it.

  3. Load the Natural Brushes library and choose the Charcoal 59 pixels brush. Set Style to Loose Long and paint on and around the two faces.

    I like the bold strokes that loosely follow the basic forms of the faces. The fluffy texture from the underpainting looks good in Eli's shirt, so keep it, but return to a smoother look for Jerry's shirt.

  4. Switch to the Brush tool. You can continue using the Charcoal 59 pixels to brush Jerry's shirt with black. Vary the length and direction of your strokes slightly and use Edit > Fade as needed for just a bit of variation in tone and texture.

    Yes, it's legal to use the "regular" brush on this project, especially if you know what you want and how to achieve it easily. Just be careful not to make your work look too slick.

    Figure 7Figure 7 Paint loose, long strokes over the faces and reduce variation in the black shirt.

  5. Return to the Art History Brush configuration used in Step 4. Apply strokes to the upper-left background and to the area between Eli's shirt and the lower-right corner.

    Figure 8Figure 8 Continue to develop the painting.

    The painting is finished when you say so. If you feel you have created enough visually interesting shapes, tones, and textures, you might take a break and come back to give it a fresh look before deciding whether to work some more. It might be better to call the painting "finished" sooner rather than later to avoid overworking it.

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